Tender documents are being developed for release to seven companies that pre-qualified to bid on the Paraquita Bay solar microgrid project announced last year, Deputy Premier Kye Rymer said last week in the House of Assembly as part of an update on the BVI Electricity Corporation.
The companies that qualified, he said, are K-Line Maintenance & Construction, SMA Sunbelt Energy Gmbh, Valard Construction LP, China Machinery Engineering Corporation, DHYBRID Power Systems, Sino Soar Hybrid (Beijing), and Compass Solutions International.
“Recognising that this project was able to attract grant funding from one of the G7 nations,” he said, “the project has been getting international attention due to the fact it aligns perfectly with particular climate change mitigation objectives.”
The $600,000 microgrid project, which will place a portion of the transmission network underground and add battery energy storage system facilities, is being funded by a grant awarded in January 2021 by the Canadian Support to the Energy Sector in the Caribbean Fund administered by the Caribbean Development Bank.
During an Oct. 25 HOA meeting, Mr. Rymer said the microgrid will be used to supply the Seven Seas and Bar Bay water plants and H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and improve the resilience of the territory’s power grid, which was knocked out for months by the storms of 2017.
The BVIEC, he added, has completed site assessments including a “geotechnical investigation” for the project.
In January of this year, the BVIEC received 19 applications for pre-qualification for a future tender for engineering, procurement and construction services for the microgrid project, for which the BVIEC is partnering with the Colorado-based non-profit Rocky Mountain Institute.
The project’s scope includes solar P/V, battery storage, power management systems, and a substation, and it will require undergrounding electrical cables with options for integration with the existing grid.
Daniel Best, the CDB’s director of projects, said in February that the grid could serve as a model for similar renewable energy products throughout the Caribbean.
Last week, Mr. Rymer also provided an update on the 17 small-scale renewable energy systems now approved by BVIEC, which total 450 kilowatts — as much as the entire power capacity of Anegada, according to the minister.
Of those, nine are presently grid-tied: five primary and secondary schools on Tortola and Virgin Gorda, as well as the Youth Empowerment Project on Tortola, the Jost Van Dyke Clinic, and Guavaberry Spring Bay and Charles Smith on Virgin Gorda. An additional six applications for the systems are under review, he said. When complete, Mr. Rymer anticipates they will provide 700 kilowatts of energy throughout the territory.
Additionally, equipment for the Anegada Hybrid Renewable Energy and Battery Energy Storage System Project is scheduled to arrive in the first quarter of next year, according to the deputy premier.
Mr. Rymer said material was delayed by pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions and the ongoing war in Ukraine, but the project is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of next year.
The most recent delays are not the project’s first. Following a much-criticised tender process, in July 2020 the BVIEC announced plans to award the project contract to Power52 Clean Energy Access, an American company whose founder and CEO has faced construction-related lawsuits and fraud allegations in recent years in the United States.
But the $4.6 million contract wasn’t signed until November 2021, when Power52 CEO Rob Wallace Jr. and BVIEC officials blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for the 16-month delay. At the time, Mr. Wallace — who has denied the civil allegations against him in the US — said he was expecting to complete construction within a year, though BVIEC General Manager Leroy Abraham cautioned that procuring the necessary materials would be difficult and such challenges could cause delays.
Also last week, Mr. Rymer gave an update on grant funds recently awarded from the European Union Resilience, Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity Programme. Under those funds, he said, “discussions can finally commence” regarding the lease of some Virgin Gorda property to develop a project similar to the one planned for Paraquita Bay.
“BVIEC trusts that the government of the Virgin Islands will be pleased with the volume of work which has been performed to date, to position the BVI as a regional leader as it relates to its clean energy transmission,” the deputy premier said.
This story has been revised to clarify that Leroy Abraham is the general manager of BVIEC.